The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released a public service announcement alerting consumers to a new blackmail scheme that is targeting email users and their personal privacy.
Nick Tella, director of information security at Johnson & Wales, sat down with WPRI’s Susan Campbell in Providence to discuss how consumers can keep themselves safe against potential scams, especially this most recent incident—which involves personal information and incriminating “evidence.”
“Cybercriminals are exploiting human vulnerabilities and fears through this latest email scam. It’s very malicious,” he explained.
According to the FBI, consumers have reported receiving emails and letters from an “unknown party” claiming to know personal information and threatening to share evidence about adulterous activities or involvement “in other compromising situations” if the recipient doesn’t pay a specific amount in Bitcoin.
While it is impossible to target every person with an email, Tella said the trick is to send a bunch of emails out and hope some stick with people given their situations. “It’s a numbers game,” he said.
According to Tella, the emails tend to contain the consumer’s password, making the scenarios seem credible. “The password was obtained through the various hundreds of thousands of data breaches that have occurred in the past. That data is for sale on the dark web, so the cybercriminals are buying it.”
So, how can you keep yourself safe?
If you feel that your information may have been compromised or if you receive a questionable email, Tella suggests changing your password right away.
“Immediately change your password and don’t reuse [it],” he said. “Don’t click on something you don’t know.”
Here are six key for protecting yourself and your personal information online, according to the FBI:
- Never open email or attachments from unknown individuals.
- Monitor your bank account statement and credit report for fraudulent activity.
- Never communicate with unsolicited email senders.
- Use strong passwords and never use the same ones on multiple sites or accounts.
- Enable security settings for social media accounts.
- Ensure your transmission is secure when providing personal, credit card, or other sensitive information online. Make sure to verify the URL and look for the “lock” icon that denotes a safe site.
Interested in furthering your career in information and security? Johnson & Wales University offers an online MBA – Information Security/ Assurance degree. Complete the “Request Info” form on this page or contact 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].